Today we celebrate Black History Month in memory of Christopher M. Bell. A renowned Disability Studies Scholar, he challenged the field’s whitewashing of disability history and the continued erasure of Black Indigenous People Of Color (BIPOC) with disabilities. Himself a Black gay man with HIV, Bell was unafraid to critique the absence of intersectional perspectives across the disability community. Although Bell passed away in 2009, he remains a revered intellectual inspiring the present-day work of academics and advocates globally.
Check out a more detailed profile from the Lead On Network and read below for a tribute message penned by Dr. Moya Bailey and Dr. Therí Pickens. Both Dr. Pickens and Dr. Bailey’s work are featured in Bell’s anthology, Blackness and Disability: Critical Examinations and Cultural Interventions.
Christopher M. Bell is most well-known for his contribution to the second edition of the Disability Studies Reader, a sardonic Swiftian essay called “Introducing (White) Disability Studies,” where he upbraids the field for its willful ignorance of race. This particular essay crystallizes in writing what Bell worked on as an advocate and scholar a set of structural changes to the field of Disability Studies such that race was not an afterthought, but part of the field’s constitutive underpinning. Not only did Bell work tirelessly as a board member in the Society for Disability Studies, but he also paved the way for scholars working on race and disability to have publication and presentation opportunities. His posthumously produced anthology Blackness and Disability: Critical Examinations and Cultural Interventions is a profound example of his generous intellectual spirit. He ushered in a new wave of scholars attentive to race and disability simultaneously with this text which has been cited over 100 times. In his short life he created a long lasting legacy within disability studies, Black studies, and the wonderfully fecund interstitial space between them.
Dr. Therí Pickens has just published her second monograph, Black Madness :: Mad Blackness, (Duke University Press in 2019) which explores the connection between Blackness and madness. She aims to architect a series of conversations that retool our theory and praxis for and about the Black mad and the mad Black.
Dr. Moya Bailey, in collaboration with Dr. Izetta Mobley, published “Work in the Intersection: A Black Feminist Disability Framework” in the journal Gender and Society. The article addresses the tensions between disability studies and Black studies through Black feminist theory.